Two Inverness Churchgoers Receive Special Papal Awards from Pope Francis


The Parish of St. Columba’s R.C. Church at Culloden celebrated the awarding of two Benemerenti papal awards from Pope Francis to two extremely dedicated and devoted parishioners.

Although the new church building at Tower Road, Culloden only celebrated its 10th anniversary on 1st November 2018, the growing congregation had been gathering for Sunday Mass services for over 30 years prior to that in the nearby gym hall at Duncan Forbes Primary School. 

Parish priest, Fr. Domenico Zanre explained that Ewen MacDonald & Helen MacGilp have been most generous of their time and abundant talents, in their devotion of helping to create, nurture and grow the church community over many years around Culloden, near Inverness.

Instantly recognisable to visitors and parishioners alike, as they’ve both been Eucharistic Ministers, Catechists, Readers and dedicated volunteers in all church related matters, too numerous to cover on one page. Helen is a busy young grandmother and has recently moved house from the village of Balloch, across the city, and as a result, is now stepping down from her many dedicated years of volunteering and being the church Sacristan and main key holder. She saw her role at St. Columba’s as part of her ‘lay vocation’. Helen is intimately involved in the Secular Franciscan movement, as the local ‘General Minister’ for Scotland. She organised and chairs monthly meetings of the Secular Franciscans in the Highland region, and attends conferences and workshops throughout the UK and Europe. In addition she volunteered with the Citizens Advice Bureau for several years.

Ewen is a local solicitor and senior partner in family law firm, Anderson, Shaw & Gilbert, he’s been secretary, chairman and is currently treasurer to the parish, and involved in the Fabric and Finance committee over many years. First invited to be deanery team advisor for finance, by the then Bishop of Aberdeen, Bishop Peter Moran. Ewen is a Catechist and has lead the weekly Children’s Liturgy since 1998. Helen is the principal Catechist of the parish, and she and Ewen shared the preparation of candidates for the sacraments of First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation.

During the past year, the church estate at Culloden has been developed further, with the building of a new private nursery, (for Green Tree Nursery of Smithton), and the sale of two house plots in adjoining woodland. The net proceeds of these sales has resulted in the funds to help build a chapel house & presbytery for the parish priest.

Ewen has expertly guided the parish through the entire legal process, with the parish priest Fr. Domenico Zanre just moving into the newly completed house beside the church on Hogmanay.
(Prior to that, since his appointment as parish priest over three years ago, he had been living at St. Mary’s Presbytery at Huntly Street, Inverness, occupying the guest room).

Parish priest Fr. Domenico Zanre thanked them both for their years of outstanding dedication and transmitting the Catholic Faith to the next generation, and for all their many contributions to the wellbeing of the church and its growing parish community.

He hoped that their examples of Faith and generous volunteering, along with those of many other helpers at the church, would inspire others to give off their talents and spare a few hours of their skills, to help with the weekly and monthly smooth running of a busy and vibrant church.

The Benemerenti Medal is a honour awarded by the pope to members of the clergy and laity for outstanding service to the Catholic Church.